Tag Archives: regulations

#TDIWH—February 23, 1893: Interstate Quarantine Act Becomes Law

0223 Interstate Quarantine RegulationsFebruary 23, 1893: Interstate Quarantine Act becomes law. “In 1893 Congress passed the Interstate Quarantine Act to reduce the spread of communicable diseases through interstate commerce. The act gave the Department of the Treasury broad powers to establish regulations preventing the spread of disease from one state to another in the following clause (Cumming 1932; Kraut 1994):

‘The Secretary of the Treasury shall, if in his judgment it is necessary and proper, make such additional rules and regulations as are necessary to prevent the introduction of such diseases (communicable) into the United States from foreign countries, or into one State or Territory or the District of Columbia from another State or Territory or the District of Columbia ….’

This clause was not immediately perceived as requiring any regulations relating to drinking water. In fact, methods of bacteriological analysis and water treatment were not sufficiently developed at this time for the establishment of quantitative standards.”

Reference: Fischbeck, Paul S. and R. Scott Farrow eds. Improving Regulation: Cases in Environment, Health and Safety. Washington, DC:Resources for the Future. 2001, p. 52.

Commentary: However, in 1912 the common cup was banned on interstate carriers using this law as the basis for regulation by the Treasury Department. In 1914, the first microbiological drinking water regulations were adopted under the Interstate Quarantine Act that governed the quality of water served aboard interstate carriers (trains, riverboats and Great Lakes steamers).

#TDIWH— January 22, 2001: Arsenic Rule Final

Map of typical levels of Arsenic in U.S.  water supplies

Map of typical levels of Arsenic in U.S. water supplies

January 22, 2001: Final Rule for Arsenic in Drinking Water. “Today’s final rule revises the current Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) from 50 µg/L to 10 µg/L and sets a Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) of zero for arsenic in drinking water. In addition, this final rule also clarifies how compliance is demonstrated for many inorganic and organic contaminants in drinking water…. Both community water systems (CWSs) and non-transient, non-community water systems (NTNCWSs) will be required to reduce the arsenic concentration in their drinking water systems to 10 µg/L…. All CWSs and all NTNCWSs that exceed the MCL of 10 µg/L will be required to come into compliance 5 years after the publication of the final rule. Beginning with reports that are due by July 1, 2002, all CWSs will begin providing health information and arsenic concentrations in their annual consumer confidence report (CCR) for water that exceeds ½ the new MCL….

In the 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), Congress directed EPA to propose a new arsenic regulation by January 1, 2000 and to issue the final rule by January 1, 2001 (Congress subsequently extended the final rule date to June 22, 2001). EPA published the proposed rule for arsenic on June 22, 2000. The rule proposed an MCL of 5 µg/L for arsenic and EPA took comment on regulatory options of 3 µg/L (the feasible level), 10 µg/L and 20 µg/L. The 1996 amendments to SDWA added discretionary authority for the EPA Administrator to adjust the maximum contaminant level (MCL) if the benefits would not justify the costs (§1412(b)(6)). Today’s rule is important because it is the second drinking water regulation in which EPA will use the discretionary authority under §1412(b)(6) of SWDA. After careful consideration of the benefits and the costs, EPA has decided to set the drinking water standard for arsenic higher than the technically feasible level of 3 µg/L because EPA believes that the costs would not justify the benefits at this level. EPA believes that the final MCL of 10 µg/L maximizes health risk reduction at a cost justified by the benefits.”

January 7, 1914: First Transit of Panama Canal; 1832: Richmond Filter; 2011: Fluoride Exposure

SS Ancon first official transit of the Panama Canal in 1914.  The Alexandre La Valley was an old French crane boat that made the first unofficial transit on 1/7/1914.

SS Ancon first official transit of the Panama Canal in 1914. The Alexandre La Valley was an old French crane boat that made the first unofficial transit on 1/7/1914.

January 7, 1914:On January 7, 1914 the Alexandre La Valley became the first ship to make a complete transit of the Panama Canal. The Canal is about 50 miles long and uses a system of locks to transport ships through. The locks are 110 feet wide and 1,000 feet long. Between 13,000 and 14,000 vessels use the canal each year, accounting for about 5% of the world trade….The number of ships able to be processed through is limited by the space available. Larger ships are being built and the locks are limited by size. These forces combined are leading to the Panama Canal Expansion Project. Work began on a new set of locks in 2007 and is expected to be completed by 2014.”

Commentary: The water history connection is that the filling of the locks is accomplished by draining water from Gatun Lake that is fed by precipitation in the Panamanian rain forest. Over 26 million gallons of fresh water is lost to the ocean during each downward lock cycle. The new canal system of locks will recycle about 60 percent of the water so there will be less pressure on the local water resources. A terrific blog posted on October 21, 2012, entitled “Panama Canal Update : Why Water is still King” gave a lot of details on the water resources angle of the new canal. I recommend it.

0126 Moses N BakerJanuary 7, 1832: Completion of the first attempt to filter a public water supply in the U.S. Filtration was begun in Richmond, VA. The slow sand filters operated in an “upflow” mode and consisted of layers of sand and gravel. The design engineer was Albert Stein who built a downflow filter after the upflow version failed. Despite the problems, Moses N. Baker declared the Richmond filtration efforts the start of filtration of public water supplies in the U.S.

Reference: Baker, Moses N. 1981. The Quest for Pure Water: the History of Water Purification from the Earliest Records to the Twentieth Century. 2nd Edition. Vol. 1. Denver, Co.: American Water Works Association, 125-9.

1202 USEPAJanuary 7, 2011: To prevent overexposure to fluoride, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced proposed changes in the recommended level of fluoride in drinking water. The HHS proposed recommendation of 0.7 parts per million (ppm) of fluoride in drinking water replaced the current recommended range of 0.7 to 1.2 ppm.

December 16, 1974: Safe Drinking Water Act Signed into Law

1216 Safe Drinking Water Act signed into lawDecember 16, 1974: Safe Drinking Water Act signed into law by President Ford. “The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) is the principal federal law in the United States intended to ensure safe drinking water for the public. Pursuant to the act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to set standards for drinking water quality and oversee all states, localities, and water suppliers who implement these standards.

SDWA applies to every public water system in the United States. There are currently more than 150,000 public water systems providing water to almost all Americans at some time in their lives. These water systems must be analyzed by third-party analytical laboratories. The Act does not cover private wells [or bottled water].”

To ensure that drinking water is safe, SDWA sets up multiple barriers against pollution. These barriers include: source water protection, treatment, distribution system integrity, and public information. Public water systems are responsible for ensuring that contaminants in tap water do not exceed the standards. Water systems treat the water, and must test their water frequently for specified contaminants and report the results to states. If a water system is not meeting these standards, it is the water supplier’s responsibility to notify its customers. Many water suppliers now are also required to prepare annual reports for their customers. The public is responsible for helping local water suppliers to set priorities, make decisions on funding and system improvements, and establish programs to protect drinking water sources. Water systems across the nation rely on citizen advisory committees, rate boards, volunteers, and civic leaders to actively protect this resource in every community in America.”

November 23, 1992: First Reg Neg Negotiation Session

1123 Reg Neg Negotiating CommitteeNovember 23, 1992: First Negotiation Session of Regulatory Negotiation for the Microbial Disinfectants/Disinfection Byproducts Rule Making. This was a multi-stakeholder regulatory negotiations process (including the USEPA) which resulted in the adoption of five landmark drinking water regulations: Interim Surface Water Treatment Rule, Stage 1 Disinfectants and Disinfection Byproducts Rule, Information Collection Rule, Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule and Stage 2 Disinfectants and Disinfection Byproducts Rule.

As stated in the introduction to the 1995 Roberson et al. paper: “The proposed Disinfectants/Disinfection By-products (D/DBP) Rule reflects one of the most complicated standard- setting processes addressed under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The process involved balancing potential trade-offs between chemical risk (most of which is considered chronic) and microbial risk (most of which is considered acute). In this case, both types of risk are poorly characterized. Nevertheless, the potential is enormous for changes in risk and associated treatment costs resulting from regulatory action. Largely as a result of this dilemma, the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) elected to use a regulatory negotiation (“reg-neg”) process to develop a proposed rule. This was the first time a negotiated rule-making had been used in the development of a drinking water regulation….During the process negotiators were aided by the Technologies Working Group (TWG), which quantified the costs and benefits of various treatment alternatives.”


Roberson, J.A., Cromwell, J.E., Krasner, S.W., McGuire, M.J., Owen, D.M., Regli, S., and Summers, R.S. (1995). “The D/DBP Rule: Where did the Numbers Come From?” Jour. AWWA. 87:10, 46-57.

McGuire, M.J. (1993). “Reg Neg Process and the D/DBP Rule.” presented at the Fall Conference. California‑Nevada Section, American Water Works Association. Reno, Nevada, October 28, 1993.

McGuire, M.J. (1994 ). “Using the Information Superhighway to Corral the ICR.” Jour. AWWA. 86:6, 10.

McGuire, M.J. (1996). “AWWA’s Information Collection Rule Activities.” presented at M/DBP Cluster Information Exchange Meeting. RESOLVE, Washington, D.C. May 10, 1996.

McGuire, M.J. (1997). “Technical Work Group Presentation.” presented at the M-DBP Stakeholder Meeting. Washington, DC. January 28, 1997.

Commentary:  The photo below is a good portion of the Technologies Working Group. Note the hats. I had about 200 of them made and handed them out to everyone who helped during the process. I have been using the extras for the past sixteen plus years in my boating and cruising life. The most recent loss occurred when the hat flew off my head while raising the mainsail on a sailboat cruise to Cabo San Lucas. Great hat.


November 15, 1910: New York Abolishes Common Cup

1211 Skull Common CupNovember 15, 1910New York Times headline—Would Abolish Common Cup. “Albany, Nov. 15—“There is no excuse for a public drinking cup, on the train or anywhere else, now that penny-in-the-slot machines serve out paper cups and that metal collapsible cups can be purchased for a dime,” says a circular sent out by the State Department of Health. The Health Department is co-operating with the railroads to do away with the public drinking cup on trains and in railroad stations. It is stated that there is great possibility of the transmission of disease by the use of the common drinking cup….”

CommentaryOn October 30, 2012, we observed the 100th anniversary of the first drinking water regulation, which was adopted by the U.S. Treasury Department that prohibited the use of the common drinking cup on interstate carriers. Individual states like New York and Kansas led the way by raising awareness of this serious public health problem. Seven articles in my blog safedrinkingwaterdotcom provided a countdown to the anniversary date.

October 21, 1914: Treasury Drinking Water Standards

Dr. Rupert Blue, 4th Surgeon General of the U.S.

Dr. Rupert Blue, 4th Surgeon General of the U.S.

October 21, 1914:  The first numerical drinking water regulations in the U.S. were adopted. “On October 21, 1914, pursuant to the recommendation of the Surgeon General of the Public Health Service [Dr. Rupert Blue], the Treasury Department adopted the first standards for drinking water supplied to the public by any common carrier engaged in interstate commerce. These standards specified the maximum permissible limits of bacteriological impurity, which may be summarized as follows:

  1. The bacterial plate count on standard agar incubated for 24 [hours] at 37 [degrees] C was not to exceed 100/cc.
  2. Not more than one of the five 10-cc portions of each sample examined was to show presence of B. coli. [equivalent to no more than 2 /100 mL—MPN index for total coliforms]
  3. The recommended procedures were those in Standard Methods of Water Analysis (APHA, 1912) [2nd edition].

These standards were drafted by a commission of 15 appointed members. Among the members of this commission were Charles Gilman Hyde, Milton J. Rosenau, William T. Sedgwick, George C. Whipple and C.-E. A. Winslow, names well known to those who have studied early developments in water treatment.

Though not a part of the standards, the accompanying first progress report is very interesting as it provides insight into the commission’s deliberations on other problems. There appears to have been considerable discussion on whether the standards should also state that the water shall ‘be free from injurious effects upon the human body and free from offensiveness to the sense of sight, taste, or smell’; whether the quality of water required should be obtainable by the common carriers without prohibitive expense; and whether it would be necessary to require more than a ‘few and simple examinations to determine the quality of drinking water.’”

Reference:  AWWA. Water Quality and Treatment. 3rd ed. New York:McGraw Hill, 1971, p. 16-7.

Commentary: Sedgwick, Whipple and Winslow were professors at MIT, Harvard and Yale, respectively. They were also expert witnesses who played prominent roles in the lawsuit between Jersey City and the Jersey City Water Supply Company in 1906-1909. During the second Jersey City trial, they adamantly opposed the use of chlorine by Dr. John L. Leal. The story of the trials and the first continuous use of chlorine to disinfect a U.S. water supply are detailed in The Chlorine Revolution:  Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives, which was published in the spring of 2013.